All about hoikuen

Posted by in Mary's blog

The bunny attends hoikuen. Hoikuen is the Japanese word for nursery school. Unlike daycare it is suppose to have a learning component. The “senseis” and “encho-sensei”, that’s “teachers” and “principal”, at the hoikuen speak Japanese. This makes communication difficult but not impossible.

If you’re in Japan and have a child of hoikuen age – for public hoikuens that’s six months to four years of age – and you don’t speak Japanese, you will need to find a Japanese friend to help you out.

Most hoikuens in our area did not want to take the bunny when they found out that she was from a foreign family. Some even claimed they were full only later for us to find out they weren’t. This is because they want to have good communication with the child’s parents. Thanks to the help of my supervisor at school we were able to get the bunny into a hoikuen. My supervisor agreed to be on call in case the hoikuen needed to get in contact with us. She also helps translate information we receive from the hoikuen.

So, how do we communicate with the hoikuen?

Every morning Mike writes in the bunny’s journal – Did she have any poopy diapers that morning? What was her mood and health like? What did she eat for breakfast? He also writes down her temperature and some comments. The hoikuen staff do the same. They look up words in the dictionary so they can communicate in English and Mike does his best to write in Japanese. Their English is often very broken and sometimes their comments are down right hilarious. We don’t always know exactly what happens at hoikuen but we can get an idea.

We were able to communicate with her senseis that the bunny is using the potty at home and they have started having her use the potty at the hoikuen! On Wednesday, one of her senseis excitedly told us that the bunny went pee on the potty. It was all in Japanese but with many actions and maybe the word “potty” we were able to understand.

The bunny is enjoying her time at the hoikuen. She likes her senseis a lot. She doesn’t mind that they speak Japanese and they are no longer worried about how they will communicate with her – In our initial interview, when this concern was voiced we said don’t worry she doesn’t speak English either. The bunny doesn’t cry anymore when Mike drops her off – she just waves and starts playing. She’s becoming such a big girl. The hoikuen staff have also discovered the bunny’s love of music. She loves to sing and dance and really gets into it.

We are noticing that the bunny is responding to some common Japanese words such as “konnichiwa” and “sayonara”. I’m sure she will be speaking and understanding Japanese well before Mike and I.